S.H. Raza is one of the giants of Indian Modernism. He moved to France in the middle of the 20th Century. His nephew decided to exploit this situation by passing off a dozen faked early works from the 30s and 40s to his gallery:
Raza had been associated with the Dhoomimal Gallery for several years. The gallery, established in 1936 by Ram Babu Jain, is credited with bringing works by legends like J. Swaminathan, F.N. Souza, Jamini Roy, M.F. Husain and Kishen Khanna, long before before the culture of gallery shows took off in the capital.
“I had not realised in all my years in France that an obvious demonstration of fakes could be presented to a gallery. The person from whom the works were acquired was one of my family members. I told him to get out and filed a case against him,” Raza told IANS.
“It was a sad evening. Those who faked my works are smart people and have abundance of talent. But the fact that they have audacity to sign the works in my name was sacrilege,” Raza added.
The move, said was not only good for his own self, but also for all senior artists like Gaitonde, F.N. Souza and Swaminathan, many of whose works are faked in the market,” Raza said. He said artists must have copyrights of their creation.
[ . . . .] Describing the way in which the artist identified the fake paintings, senior Delhi-based Gogi Gajwani, who was present at the show with Raza, said: “Raza was received by Uma Jain of the Dhoomimal Gallery and was guided along the walls lined with his early works. Initially, the artist did not react but after a while, he said they were not his works.
“Then he went through the canvases very carefully to check for his signature. And said even his initials had been forged. It was a major embarrassment,” Gajwani told IANS.
The Times of London adds to the story:
“All I know is that these paintings were loaned to us by Zafri, and when Raza saw them he expressed doubts about them,” Mrs Jain said. “He was very angry, but that is between him and his nephew.”
Mr Raza has since filed a lawsuit against Mr Zafri. Neither man was immediately available for comment.
The scandal highlights the lucrative opportunities for forgers in India, which has witnessed an unprecedented boom in demand for local modern and contemporary art over the past few years.
The vaule of Indian art sold at auction has risen from about $5 million (£3.4 million) in 2003 to $150 million last year and the local art market in India is now estimated to be worth around £200 million.
But art experts and dealers say that one of the main risks for buyers is that India does not have any fixed mechanism for authentication of art works.
“Forgery is a tremendous problem now,” said Mrs Jain. “In the last 10-15 years, so much money has come into the art market and a lot of people who are buying don’t have much experience.”
Indian Artist S. H. Raza Finds Exhibition of His Work Full of Fakes (The Times of London)